BEIRUT: Eight Fatah al-Islam inmates peacefully turned themselves in to police Friday for the alleged murder of a Palestinian prisoner in the Roumieh prison complex.
The men turned themselves in following pressure from security officials and the committee of the families of Islamist inmates in Roumieh to do so.
The eight inmates were identified during negotiations that took place Friday between the chief of ISF’s Gendarmerie, Brig. Gen. Joseph Dweihi, and three Islamist sheikhs who were representing the inmates. The meeting took place at the office of Lt. Col. Amer Zailaa, the head of the police unit at Roumieh.
“The detainees informed me of their approval to hand over the suspects,” Sheikh Nabil Rahim told reporters after the meeting, adding that interrogations would begin Saturday.
According to judicial sources, after the suspects were identified Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr issued an indictment against them for the premeditated murder of Ghassan Qindaqli. The men turned themselves in promptly afterward.
Saqr also charged three Gendarmerie prison guards with “negligence of duty.”
Earlier this week, the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Army gave the inmates a 48-hour deadline to hand in the suspects, threatening to launch a joint raid on Bloc B if their demand was not met.
“The ISF and the army had taken a decision to use all the force necessary to arrest the suspects and bring them out of their cells,” said a senior security official who did not want to be identified. He added that Islamist inmates, who are known to have weapons, have imposed de facto rule over Bloc B of the prison and have become a threat to prisoners and the jail’s guards, turning the prison complex into a “time bomb.”
Seeking to avoid bloodshed inside the bloc, where inmates are armed with knives and iron metal pieces, security forces urged the committee of the families of Islamist inmates to convince their relatives to turn themselves in.
The deceased Qindaqli, who was serving a life sentence for multiple counts of murder and other drug-related offenses, was found hanging in his cell at the prison’s Bloc B on Jan. 18.
Judicial sources said that a probe revealed the hanging was a setup to make the murder look like a suicide. The probe concluded that Qindaqli died after being tortured with sharp instruments.
Interrogations with suspects will take place at the prison facility’s Bloc B, according to security sources.
Prison inmates knew the identities of the eight suspects, who have been held without charge since 2007, all along. They agreed to allow prison guards to inspect the cells of accused men, the sources added.
Sources inside the prison said Friday that the facility has received some 100 complaints about illegal behavior at Bloc B.
The sources added that the judge presiding over Qindaqli’s case collected 25 testimonies from prisoners who currently live in fear of armed Islamist inmates at Roumieh. Police are to transfer these prisoners to another facility, the sources added.